The art of painting over textile fabrics with oily preparations to make them waterproof is probably nearly as old as textile manufacture itself, an industry of prehistoric, nay, geologic, origin. It is certainly more ancient than the craft of the artistic painter in oils, whose canvases are nothing more nor less than art oilskins, and when out of their frames, have served the usual purpose of those things in protecting goods or the human body before now. The art of waterproofing has been extended beyond the domain of the oilskin by chemical processes, especially those in which alum or lead salts, or tannin, are used, as well as by the discovery of India rubber and gutta percha. These two have revolutionized the waterproofing industry in quite a special manner, and the oilskin manufacture, although it still exists and is in a fairly flourishing condition, has found its products to a very large extent replaced by rubber goods. The natural result has been that the processes used in the former industry have remained now unchanged for a good many years. They had already been brought to a very perfect state when the rubber-waterproofing business sprang up, so that improvements were even then difficult to hit upon in oilskin making, and the check put upon the trade by India rubber made people less willing to spend time and money in experimenting with a view to improving what many years had already made it difficult to better. Hence the three cardinal defects of the oilskin: its weight, its stiffness, and the liability of its folds to stick together when it is wrapped up, or in the other extreme to crack, still remains. The weight, of course, is inevitable. An oilskin must be heavy, comparatively, from the very essence of the process by which it is made, but there seems no reason why it should not in time be made much more pliable (an old-time oilskin coat could often stand up on end when empty) and free from the danger of cracking or being compacted into a solid block when it has been stored folded on a shelf.

Probably the best oilskins ever made are those prepared by combining Dr. Stenhouse's process (patented in 1864) with the ordinary method, which consists in the main of painting over the fabric with two or more coats of boiled linseed oil, allowing each coat to dry before the next is applied. This, with a few variations in detail, is the whole method of making oilskins. Dr. Stenhouse's waterproofing method is to impregnate the fabric with a mixture of hard paraffine and boiled oil in proportions varying according to circumstances from 95 per cent of paraffine and 5 of oil to 70 per cent of the former and 30 of the latter. The most usual percentages are 80 and 20. The mixture is made with the aid of heat, and is then cast into blocks for storage. It is applied to the cloth stretched on a hot plate by rubbing the fabric thoroughly all over with a block of the composition, which may be applied on one or both sides as may be wished. The saturation is then made complete, and excess of composition is removed by passing the cloth between hot rollers. When the cloth is quite cold the process is complete. The paraffine and the drying oil combine their waterproofing powers, and the paraffine prevents the oil from exerting any injurious action upon the material. Drying oil, partly on account of the metallic compounds in it, and partly on account of its absorbing oxygen from the atmosphere, has a decided slow weakening effect upon textile fibers. Dr. Stenhouse points out that the inflammability of oilskins may be much lessened by the use of the ordinary fire-proofing salts, such as tungstate of soda, or alum, either before or after the waterproofing process is carried out.

The following are some of the best recommended recipes for making oilskins:


Dissolve 1 ounce of yellow soap in 1.5 pints of boiling water. Then stir in 1 quart of boiled oil. When cold, add 0.25 pint of gold size.


Take fine twilled calico. Soak it in bullock's blood and dry it. Then give it 2 or 3 coats of boiled oil, mixed with a little litharge, or with an ounce of gold size to every pint of the oil.


Make ordinary paint ready to be applied thin with a strong solution of soap.


Make 96 pounds of ocher to a thin paste with boiled oil, and then add 16 pounds of ordinary black paint mixed ready for use. Apply the first coat of this with soap, the subsequent coats without soap.


Dissolve rosin in hot boiled oil till it begins to thicken.


Mix chalk or pipe clay in the finest powder, and in the purest state obtainable to a thin paste with boiled oil.


Melt together boiled oil, 1 pint; beeswax and rosin, each, 2 ounces.


Dissolve soft soap in hot water and add solution of protosulphate of iron till no further precipitate is produced. Filter off, wash, and dry, and form the mass into a thin paste with boiled oil.

All these compositions are painted on with an ordinary painter's brush. The fabric should be slightly stretched, both to avoid folds and to facilitate the penetration of the waterproofing mixture. To aid the penetration still further, the mixture should be applied hot. It is of the greatest importance that the fabric should not be damp when the composition is applied to it. It is best to have it warm as well as the composition. If more than one coat is applied, which is practically always the case, three being the usual number, it is essential that the last coat should be perfectly dry before the next is applied. Neglect of. this precaution is the chief cause of stickiness, which frequently results in serious damage to the oilskins when they have to be unfolded. In fact, it is advisable to avoid folding an oilskin when it can be avoided. They should be hung up when not in use, whenever practicable, and be allowed plenty of room. It goes without saying that no attempt should be made to sell or use the oilskin, whether garment or tarpaulin, until the final coat of composition is perfectly dry and set. It is unadvisable to use artificial heat in the drying at any stage in the manufacture.